The NBA introduced the coaches challenge this year – each head coach gets to trigger one instant replay review per game. So far, the success rate of the challenge is around 40%, which is significant, but what stands out are obvious instances in which the refs made the wrong call, but it remained standing after the challenge. Last night LeBron called the refs out after a moment like that.
With 1:23 to go in the fourth quarter, the Pelicans were one point up and on offense when a shooting foul was called on Caldwell-Pope. He went to the bench, told Frank Vogel there was no foul, so Vogel used his challenge. The challenge was introduced for moments like these – end of a close game, critical call. Then this happened:
“That’s a bad call. That’s a bad call. When a ref makes that call, he don’t ever wanna be wrong. They’re never gonna overturn it. Ever.”
You might say that the 40% success rate proves the refs are willing to say they were wrong, but there were too many instances in which it was apparent they made the wrong call, and it wasn’t overturned. LeBron located the heart of the issue.
Having the same crew that made the wrong call decide on the validity of their call is a textbook example of conflict of interest. It’s human nature to stick with your original call, as we’ve seen so far, to a ridiculous level at times. It would be fascinating to see how often do refs admit to a mistake that goes against the home team, but the pressure of 15,000-18,000 people staring at you can get to the best of us.
The other major issue the challenge is the time it takes. The NBA is working day and night to try and cut down game time under two hours. That would make it more watchable and a lot easier to program for TV partners. Having someone in Burbank (where NBA’s review center is), watch the tape, and make the call would also be more time-efficient.
Don’t get me wrong, using technology to make sure the game is officiated better and that we get winners based on what happened on the court, and not a referee mistake is a great thing. But this system obviously needs to evolve as so far it has created more damage than good.